Doesn’t it seem odd that I am wishing you a “happy new year” in late November? No, I am not following some obscure calendar but I am following the liturgical calendar of the church. Today (First Sunday of Advent) is the beginning of the church year which celebrates the life of Christ (which includes preparation for the coming of Christ, his arrival, his prophetic life, his suffering, death, resurrection, and the consequences of that prophetic action).
The word “Advent” comes from the Latin which means “coming toward.” What is coming is Jesus, and he is coming frequently toward history, so it becomes necessary to see that coming is historical perspective. Simply put, we are preparing for the coming of Jesus. He came in the past (the historical Christmas). He comes in the present (the Sacraments). And he will come in the future (at the end of the world). The time of Advent, then, is a reminder of the threefold coming of Christ: past, present, and future.
Today’s Gospel begins the cycle by focussing on two issues: (1)-“Be alert” and (2)-the vigilance of the doorkeeper. The admonition to “be alert,” seems to refer to the past and future. Christ came in the past historically, and we must “be alert” to what that historical presence means to us. If we are faithful to that historical past and emulation of Christ and what his coming means, then the future will eventually render Jesus’ positive judgement upon us.
The theme of the vigilance of the doorkeeper seems to center on the present coming of Christ. The doorkeeper is like the modern day butler, namely, allowing entrance into the privacy of the house (the self). For example, we must be alert not to allow temptations to enter into our “house” (person.)
In this season of Advent we are being reminded of the threefold coming of Christ: past, present, and future (historically, the Sacraments, and the final judgement). What this does is recall to mind the Advent theme of Immanuel (“God with us”) which indicates that Jesus is present with us all the time. A necessary reminder to those of us who tend to forget.